“The media wants overnight successes (so they have someone to tear down). Ignore them.”
So writes .com marketing legend Seth Godin in his piece “The Secret of the Web”. He’s totally correct. As anyone who has ever striven to realise an original idea knows, not only the media but those with the power in business and in society are professional cynics working to a very small time scale. If you want to create something real, you’ll have to spend a lot of time ignoring those who take your lack of results as proof of failure almost as soon as you’ve started.
It’s a thought that conmingled in my head over the weekend with the triumph of the pathetically named but surprisingly talented ‘Little Mix’ in this year’s X Factor. The audience got behind this somewhat rag-tag bunch because they got about as close to representing truth and single-minded determination as it’s possible to on the X Factor.
Media coverage has centred around their close intra-group relationships, and perhaps more importantly their relationships with existing stars. The tale of Geri Halliwell sending the group a bouquet before their final performance spread through the British and Scottish tabloids and highlights a crucial part of their appeal: these are individuals with respect for those who went before them and a desire to forge something similarly tangible. They’re the antithesis to the Frankie Cocozza model of empty fame.
Their plight is now clear, and one that every new brand- whether a teen pop sensation or a small scale start up- can learn from. One hopes that from the opportunity they’ve been handed, they’ll be able to plunder something sufficiently real to live up to their seemingly earnest aspirations- success in the true, not pre-packaged sense. However, from the outset they’ll be confronting a tidal wave of critics desperate to swamp them. They’ll also find a similarly formidable number of bigger and significantly more corporate fish looking to appropriate them into the cliché-ridden world of advertising contracts. In a year’s time, it’s sadly likely they’ll either have been hijacked by Tesco or be dead in the water.
Sound familiar? You’ve probably started a business, or even are still running one. You may not be splashed all over the tabloids or have Tulisa on your board, but you’ll have faced the same war on two fronts: the ravenous detractors on one side, the ravenous appropriators on the other. In our digital-driven world, speed is often considered to be everything, and not without justification. However, it’s vital to remember that perseverance is just as important in a market characterised by fresh or shocking ideas. Google, Apple, Facebook and countless other technological sacred cows have achieved great things by settling in for the long haul time and again. Even as I write, there are scientists at CERN firing particles around, hoping to prove a model they’ve been working on for 47 years.
Unfortunately, I can’t offer you any concrete hope, but I can press upon you something which is absolutely central. Your initial success, your first meeting, your incredible idea: these are only the doorways to true attainment. Like Little Mix, it’s vital not to be satisfied with a few minutes of cheap exposure. Shoot for what’s real. Hopefully one day you’ll end up more like the Spice Girls and less like Olly Murs, introducing younger competitors to camera with the empty smile of the truly heartbroken.